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Chapter 2 Service-connected Disabilities

Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors

Disability Compensation

Disability compensation is a monetary benefit paid to Veterans who are disabled by an injury or illness that was incurred or aggravated during active military service. These disabilities are considered to be service connected.

For additional details on types of disability claims and how to apply, go to http://benefits.va.gov/benefits/

Monthly disability compensation varies with the degree of disability and the number of eligible dependents. Veterans with certain severe disabilities may be eligible for additional special monthly compensation (SMC). Disability compensation benefits are not subject to federal or state income tax.

The payment of military retirement pay, disability severance pay and separation incentive payments, known as Special Separation Benefit (SSB) and Voluntary Separation Incentive (VSI), may affect the amount of VA compensation paid to disabled Veterans.

To be eligible for compensation, the Veteran must have been separated or discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.

Receiving Disability Benefit Payments

The Department of Treasury has mandated that all recurring federal benefits be administered through either Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or Direct Express® Debit MasterCard®. Compensation and pension beneficiaries can establish direct deposit through the Treasury's Go Direct helpline. Call toll-free 1-800-333-1795, or enroll online at www.GoDirect.org.

Veterans also have the option of receiving their benefits via a prepaid debit card, even if they do not have a bank account. There is no credit check, no minimum balance required, and basic services are free. To establish payments of federal benefits through Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® issued by Comerica Bank, call 1-888-213-1625 to enroll in the program.

*2013 VA Disability Compensation Rates for Veterans

Disability Rating Monthly Rate
10% $129
20% $225
30%* $395
40%* $569
50%* $810
60%* $1,026
70%* $1,293
80%* $1,503
90%* $1,689
100%* $2,816

*Veterans with disability ratings of at least 30 percent are eligible for additional allowances for dependents, including spouses, minor children, children between the ages of 18 and 23 who are attending school, children who are permanently incapable of self-support because of a disability arising before age 18, and dependent parents. The additional amount depends on the disability rating and the number of dependents.

Additional Monetary Benefits for Eligible Military Retirees

Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP) is a Department of Defense (DoD) program that allows some individuals to receive both military retired pay and VA disability compensation. This dual receipt was prohibited until the CRDP program began on Jan. 1, 2004. CRDP is a "phase in" of benefits that gradually restores a retiree's VA disability offset. This means that an eligible person's retired pay will gradually increase each year until the phase in is complete in Jan. 2014.

Effective Jan. 1, 2005, Veterans rated 100 percent disabled by VA, including those receiving benefits at the 100 percent rate due to individual unemployability (IU), are entitled to full CRDP without being phased in.

Eligibility: To qualify for CRDP, Veterans must:

  1. Have a VA service-connected rating of 50 percent or greater, and:
  2. Be retired from military service based on longevity, including temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) retirees; or
  3. Be retired under Chapter 61 with 20 or more qualifying years of service; or
  4. Be retired from National Guard or Reserve service with 20 or more qualifying years; and
  5. Be eligible to receive retired pay (must be offset by VA payments).

Retirees do not need to apply for this benefit. Payment is coordinated between VA and the military pay center.

Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) is a DoD program that provides tax-free monthly payments to eligible retired Veterans with combat-related disabilities. With CRSC, Veterans can receive both their military retirement pay and VA disability compensation for disabilities determined by the service department to be combat related.

Eligibility: To qualify for CRSC, Veterans must:

  1. Be a military retiree.
  2. Be entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay.
  3. Have a compensable service-connected disability.

In addition, Veterans must be able to provide documentary evidence that their disabilities were the result of one of the following:

  1. Training that simulates war (e.g., exercises, field training)
  2. Hazardous duty (e.g., flight, diving, parachute duty)
  3. An instrumentality of war (e.g., combat vehicles, weapons)
  4. Armed conflict (e.g., gunshot wounds, Purple Heart)

Disabilities related to in-service exposure to hazards (e.g., Agent Orange, Gulf War illnesses, radiation exposure) for which VA awards compensation are considered combat-related for CRSC purposes.

For more information, visit www.defense.gov, or call the toll-free phone number for the Veteran's branch of service:

Army 1-866-281-3254, ,www.hrc.army.mil/site/crsc/index.html or e-mail at crsc.info@us.army.mil

Air Force 1-800-616-3775, www.retirees.af.mil/ or email at AFPC.DPPDC.AFCRSC@us.af.mil

Navy/Marine Corps 1-877-366-2772, www.donhq.navy.mil/corb/CRSCB/combatrelated.htm or email at DoN_CRSC@navy.mil

Coast Guard 1-202-493-1735, www.uscg.mil/adm1/crsc.asp or email at Cassie.H.Sylvester@uscg.mil.

Disability Compensation for Presumptive Conditions

Certain chronic and tropical diseases (for example, multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and arthritis) may be service connected if the disease becomes at least 10 percent disabling within the applicable time limit following service. For a comprehensive list of these chronic diseases, see 38 CFR 3.309; for applicable time limits, see 38 CFR 3.307.

All Veterans who develop Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, at any time after separation from service may be eligible for compensation for that disability. To be eligible, the Veteran must have served a minimum of 90 consecutive days of active service.

Prisoners of War: For former POWs who were imprisoned for any length of time, the following disabilities are presumed to be service connected if they become at least 10 percent disabling anytime after military service: psychosis, any of the anxiety states, dysthymic disorder, organic residuals of frostbite, post-traumatic osteoarthritis, atherosclerotic heart disease or hypertensive vascular disease and their complications, stroke and its complications, and, effective Oct.10, 2008, osteoporosis if the Veteran has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For former POWs who were imprisoned for at least 30 days, the following conditions are also presumed to be service connected: avitaminosis, beriberi, chronic dysentery, helminthiasis, malnutrition (including optic atrophy associated with malnutrition), pellagra and/or other nutritional deficiencies, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, peripheral neuropathy except where related to infectious causes, cirrhosis of the liver, and, effective Sept. 28, 2009, osteoporosis.

Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange and Other Herbicides: A Veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in support of military operations.

VA presumes the following diseases to be service-connected for such exposed Veterans: AL amyloidosis, chloracne or other acneform disease similar to chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi's sarcoma or mesothelioma), Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea), non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate cancer, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, diabetes mellitus (Type 2), all chronic B-cell leukemias (including, but not limited to, hairy-cell leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia), Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease.

Veterans Exposed to Radiation: For Veterans who participated in radiation risk activities as defined in VA regulations while on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training, the following conditions are presumed to be service connected: all forms of leukemia (except for chronic lymphocytic leukemia); cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, bile ducts, gall bladder, salivary gland, urinary tract (renal pelvis, ureter, urinary bladder and urethra), brain, bone, lung, colon, and ovary; bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma; multiple myeloma; lymphomas (other than Hodgkin's disease), and primary liver cancer (except if cirrhosis or hepatitis B is indicated).

To determine service connection for other conditions or exposures not eligible for presumptive service connection, VA considers factors such as the amount of radiation exposure, duration of exposure, elapsed time between exposure and onset of the disease, gender and family history, age at time of exposure, the extent to which a non-service exposure could contribute to disease, and the relative sensitivity of exposed tissue.

Gulf War Veterans with Chronic Disabilities may receive disability compensation for chronic disabilities resulting from undiagnosed illnesses and/or medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illnesses defined by a cluster of signs or symptoms. A disability is considered chronic if it has existed for at least six months.

The undiagnosed illness must have appeared either during active service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War period of Aug. 2, 1990, to July 31, 1991, or to a degree of at least 10 percent at any time since then through Dec.31, 2016. This theater of operations includes Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Red Sea, and the airspace above these locations.

Examples of symptoms of an undiagnosed illness and medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness defined by a cluster of signs and symptoms include: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, functional gastrointestinal disorders , fatigue, signs or symptoms involving the skin, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, neurological signs or symptoms, neuropsychological signs or symptoms, signs or symptoms involving the respiratory system (upper or lower), sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal signs or symptoms, cardiovascular signs or symptoms, abnormal weight loss, and menstrual disorders.

Presumptive service connection may be granted for the following infectious diseases if found compensable within a specific time period: Brucellosis, Campylobacter jejuni, Coxiella burnetti (Q fever), Malaria, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Nontyphoid Salmonella, Shigella, Visceral leishmaniasis, and West Nile virus. Qualifying periods of service for these infectious diseases include active military, naval, or air service in the above stated Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Gulf War period of Aug. 2, 1990, until such time as the Gulf War is ended by Congressional action or Presidential proclamation; and active military, naval, or air service on or after Sept. 19, 2001, in Afghanistan.

Housing Grants for Disabled Veterans Certain Servicemembers and Veterans with service-connected disabilities may be entitled to a housing grant from VA to help build a new specially adapted house, to adapt a home they already own, or buy a house and modify it to meet their disability-related requirements. Eligible Veterans or Servicemembers may now receive up to three grants, with the total dollar amount of the grants not to exceed the maximum allowable. Previous grant recipients who had received assistance of less than the current maximum allowable may be eligible for an additional grant.

Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant Eligibility for up to $64,960: VA may approve a grant of not more than 50 percent of the cost of building, buying, or adapting existing homes or paying to reduce indebtedness on a currently owned home that is being adapted, up to a maximum of $64,960. In certain instances, the full grant amount may be applied toward remodeling costs. Veterans and Servicemembers must be determined eligible to receive compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability due to one of the following:

  1. Loss or loss of use of both lower extremities, which so affects thefunctions of balance or propulsion to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes or a wheelchair.
  2. Loss or loss of use of both upper extremities at or above the elbow.
  3. Blindness in both eyes, having only light perception, plus loss or loss of use of one lower extremity.
  4. Loss or loss of use of one lower extremity together with (a) residuals of organic disease or injury, or (b) the loss or loss of use of one upper extremity which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude locomotion without the use of braces, canes, crutches or a wheelchair.
  5. Severe burn injuries, which are defined as full thickness or subdermal burns that have resulted in contractures with limitation of motion of two or more extremities or of at least one extremity and the trunk.
  6. The loss, or loss of use of one or more lower extremities due to service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, which so affects the functions of balance or propulsion as to preclude ambulating without the aid of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair.

Special Home Adaption (SHA) Grant: Eligibility for up to $12,992: VA may approve a benefit amount up to a maximum of $12,992, for the cost of necessary adaptations to a Servicemember's or Veteran's residence or to help him/her acquire a residence already adapted with special features for his/her disability, to purchase and adapt a home, or for adaptations to a family member's home in which they will reside.

To be eligible for this grant, Servicemembers and Veterans must be entitled to compensation for permanent and total service-connected disability due to one of the following:

  • Blindness in both eyes with 20/200 visual acuity or less.
  • Anatomical loss or loss of use of both hands.
  • Severe burn injuries (see above).

Temporary Residence Adaptation (TRA): Eligible Veterans and Servicemembers who are temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member may also receive a TRA grant to help the Veteran or Servicemember adapt the family member's home to meet his or her special needs. Those eligible for a $64,960 grant would be permitted to use up to $28,515 and those eligible for a $12,992 grant would be permitted to use up to $5,092. Grant amounts are adjusted Oct.1 every year based on a cost-of-construction index. These adjustments will increase the grant amounts or leave them unchanged; grant amounts will not decrease. Under the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, TRA grant amounts will not count against SAH grant maximum amounts starting Aug. 6, 2013.

The property may be located outside the United States, in a country or political subdivision which allows individuals to have or acquire a beneficial property interest, and in which the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in his or her discretion, has determined that it is reasonably practicable for the Secretary to provide assistance in acquiring specially adapted housing. For more information on SAH, visit http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/sah.asp.

Supplemental Financing: Veterans and Servicemembers with available loan guaranty entitlement may also obtain a guaranteed loan or a direct loan from VA to supplement the grant to acquire a specially adapted home. Amounts with a guaranteed loan from a private lender will vary, but the maximum direct loan from VA is $33,000. Additional information about the Specially Adapted Housing Program is available at http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/sah.asp.

Automobile Allowance: As of Oct. 1, 2012, Veterans and Servicemembers may be eligible for a one-time payment of not more than $19,505 toward the purchase of an automobile or other conveyance if they have service-connected loss or permanent loss of use of one or both hands or feet, or permanent impairment of vision of both eyes to a certain degree.

They may also be eligible for adaptive equipment, and for repair, replacement, or reinstallation required because of disability or for the safe operation of a vehicle purchased with VA assistance. To apply, contact a VA regional office at 1-800-827-1000 or the nearest VA health care facility.

Clothing Allowance: Any Veteran who has service-connected disabilities that require a prosthetic or orthopedic appliances may receive clothing allowances. This allowance is also available to any Veteran whose service-connected skin condition requires prescribed medication that irreparably damages outer garments. To apply, contact the prosthetic representative at the nearest VA medical center.

Allowance for Aid and Attendance or Housebound Veterans

A Veteran who is determined by VA to be in need of the regular aid and attendance of another person, or a Veteran who is permanently housebound, may be entitled to additional disability compensation or pension payments. A Veteran evaluated at 30 percent or more disabled is entitled to receive an additional payment for a spouse who is in need of the aid and attendance of another person.

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